Nursery Uses of Sphagnum Moss

Commercial nurseries use sphagnum moss as an ingredient in soil mixes, a disease suppressant, soil amendment and a component of living sculpture. Sphagnum moss differs from peat moss and other variants of peat moss. Sphagnum moss has a higher content of the sphagnum species than sedge and mountain peat mosses. Sphagnum moss is not as compact or highly degraded as sphagnum peat. Sphagnum moss is considered more desirable and of higher quality.

Plug, Seedling and Soilless Mixes

Commercial seed starting mixes contain combinations of sphagnum, sometimes more than 50 percent of the mixture, limestone, nutrient supplements, vermiculite and perlite. Plugs, established starts, are also grown in this medium. These mixes are also called soilless mixes since they do not contain any sand, loam or clay. Soilless mixes are used in hydroponic gardens. Commercial and serious orchid growers raise their flowers in high quality sphagnum moss mediums.

Disease Suppression

Young starts and seedlings require warmth and moisture. Too much nurturing moisture can promote root rot and disease. Sphagnum moss is highly absorbent. Moss takes up excess water and prevents the phenomenon known as damping off from killing seedlings. Mature plants require protection from diseases. Sphagnum peat, compacted and highly degraded sphagnum moss, is mixed into sterile potting soil to prevent fungal diseases and mildews from spreading.

Soil Amendment

Soil amendments are incorporated into the soil. Sphagnum moss, when incorporated into the soil, provides water-retaining bulk as well as a high acid content. Acid is essential to the healthy development of certain plants, such as blueberry and rhododendron bushes. Nurseries and commercial garden centers do not use sphagnum moss as a topdressing. The moss absorbs, rather than allows moisture to filter into soil.


Sphagnum moss acts as a lining in wire hanging baskets. Nurseries use this material as an alternative to plastic. Sphagnum retains water and allows the plant's roots system to breathe. After soaking the moss for an hour a wire basket is lined with 2 inches of damp moss then filled with potting mix. Flowers are transplanted into the basket or grown from seed. The baskets are hanged from the greenhouse ceilings and sold. Customers display hanging baskets from balconies, near patios or atop overhead coverings.


Topiary is three-dimensional living sculpture. Perhaps you have seen topiary in formal gardens in the form of hedges shaped as swans, globes or other geometric patterns. Bonsai is an indoor, miniature form of topiary. Both of these art forms can be constructed using sphagnum moss, wire and a leafy plant such as ficus or ivy. Ficus or ivy is trained along a wire frame. The frame is stuffed with sphagnum moss. The moss provides airborne ivy and ficus roots with moisture and nutrients.

Keywords: potting mix, seed mix, sphagnum peat, plant plugs, sphagnum topiary

About this Author

Catherine Duffy has been a professional writer since 2004, with her essays published in "High Desert Journal," "Dynamo" and on various sites on the Web. She is the co-owner of a nascent nursery and on her way to earning a master gardener certification.

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